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Rest in Peace,
THE REAL CLEVELAND - STREET CONVERSATIONS WITH REZA
Submitted by Jeff Buster on Fri, 01/04/2008 - 19:16.
Post in progress, need to upload images from one computer and do Word on another. to be finished soon...It's Wednesday Jan 9, and I still haven't been able to edit my final draft of this pc. Patience please, will get final soon...thanks
On Friday, January 4, 2007 Reza and I began our morning at 10:00 am (like Guy Noir) seeking answers to Cleveland’s persistent questions.
Among Reza’s questions was why so many Clevelanders were losing their homes.
I had met Reza a few day’s prior via the blogs of Bill Callahan and Mary Beth Matthews. Reza, who was born in Iran and whose wife is doing post doctorate work at Case, had decided he would produce a video documentary on democracy and the economy in the US, and that he would start that documentary here in Cleveland.
In order to get in contact with people in NEO who had experienced foreclosure, Reza told me he Googled “Cleveland foreclosure stories” and hit on Callahan’s blog – a blog which Bill has recently focused on foreclosures. From Callahan’s blog Reza connected to Nemeth’s Brewed Fresh Daily and then to Mary Beth who, aware of my interest in photojournalism in Cleveland – had Reza telephone me for video and story location suggestions.
So when Reza and I met up, I suggested visiting the Mount Carmel Road neighborhood (between Martin Luther King and East 110), as it is as good place as any to see many, many homes which have been vacated.
With the 3 day old snowfall it was easy to observe which homes and buildings were really empty – they had no foot prints on their doorsteps and no tire tracks in their driveways. There were the homes where the aluminum siding had been stripped off the first floor – up as high as a man could reach. And there were the homes where the aluminum siding had been ripped off all the way up to the roof peak. There was a vacant church and a vacant church nursery school. There were lots of vacant lots where houses had already been demolished and leveled over.
Maybe one out of 10 homes was still occupied.
Reza wanted to get the story right from someone who lived on the street, so we got out of the car and began shooting from the sidewalk.
We couldn’t help but attract attention traipsing through the snow in the 25 degree chill with our cameras pointed at the vacant homes. Actually, sticking out was good because people passing by would ask what we were doing, and that gave Reza the opportunity to begin to ask one neighbor after the other questions.
Did the home owner lose his job? Can you get a job around here? Was it drugs? Was it a second mortgage? Where did they move to when they left this house? Out of the state?
Some of the people we spoke with were reluctant to have their video taken, but none were reluctant to discuss the issues Reza raised – and as the morning progressed – we got a wide variety of answers to what caused the deterioration in the neighborhoods we visited .
However, there was one theme in the discussions that re-occurred a number of times. The re-occurring theme enunciated by those we spoke with was this: If the government wanted to solve the neighborhood problems of crime, drugs, and abandonment, they could do so. – IF THE GOVERNMENT WANTED TO….and the clear converse (that was usually left unsaid) was that the government didn’t want to, that the government had no interest in these neighborhoods, that the neighborhoods were basically ON THEIR OWN.
Tawfak Dari was the second person we spoke with, and the first person to make the point that the neighborhood had been abandoned by the government. Mr. Dari has owned and operated the Mount Carmel Deli for the last 14 years - he's standing at the front door in the photo above. His Deli is diagonally across Mount Carmel Road (near E110) from the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Woodhill Homes Estate which was built in 1939. Mr. Dari knows almost all of his customers names, and while Reza and I were speaking with him he would greet his customers and they would say hello to “Tony” – Mr. Dari’s Americanized nickname.
When Reza and I had first entered the convenience store – I think Reza and Mr. Dari hit it off because they both had a middle eastern background. We soon learned Mr. Dari had come to the United States from Palestine at age 18 to go to high school in Steubenville, Ohio. Mr. Dari has traveled widely around the US, and over the years has worked construction, a restaurant in Detroit, and his store here in Cleveland.
And you don’t operate a convenience store for a decade and a half in Cleveland unless you have keen focus – on safety…on your personal safety.. and your head remains clear.
Now right across the street from the Deli was an empty lot, a concrete block garage with a huge hole in one side of it with a tree growing out through the hole, a boarded up house with blue dots on the plywood boarding and “RIP” sprayed across the siding. Next to the deli was a green house with all the front windows smashed out and an old curtain hanging outside the second floor. There was a bunch of trash and a snowy mattress on the front porch. A sign in the window of thegreen house announced “the plumbing had been winterized”
Reza observed that the lottery signs and the cigarette signs were fresh and new - while everything else in the neighborhood was old, faded and run down.
(This pc is still in draft - to be continued this week - )
Pickle ingredients led to a knife slashing at a nearby Deli last August.
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